Maybe it’s the name, the pose, or the fact that you can do it with a medicine ball, but there’s something very satisfying about a solid Russian Twist – something a bit aggressive, a bit Ivan Drago, a bit ‘quick, get the selfie-cam, my abs look amazing.’ That’s probably why they’re so enduringly popular in everything from group classes to Insta-posts: they look good and feel like they’re doing something.
Here’s the tricky bit, though: are you actually doing them properly? Because the difference between an immaculately-executed effort and a series of unnecessary spinal contortions is what’s going to determine whether you’re actually working your core or just twisting your spine.
The protocol, then: first, lean backwards until your back’s around 45˚ from the floor, and bring your arms upwards at right angles from your body – not straight forward. From here, rotate your torso, not just your arms…slowly. Do it like this, and even an unweighted twist should light up your abs – then, once you’ve mastered the basic version, you can add a small dumbbell, kettlebell or light medicine ball for extra tension.
Too hard even without weight? Put your heels on the floor and bring your torso slightly more vertical, and move closer to the preferred protocol as you improve. Either way, aim for do 3-4 sets of 10-20 rotations on each side, twice a week. You’ll have abs (consults papers, squints) ‘Like a piece of iron.’ Hoorah!